Elephants at the University

Text and photos by Irina Echarry

Inflatable metal elephant herd by artist Jose Emilio Fuentes
Inflatable metal elephant herd by artist Jose Emilio Fuentes

HAVANA TIMES, April 4 – The 10th Havana Biennial began its second week on Friday and one of the exhibits catching a lot peoples’ attention are the herd of 12 life size inflatable metal elephants by artist Jose Emilio Fuentes. First they were in the Plaza Vieja in Old Havana and now they’ve migrated to the University of Havana.

– Are we going now?

– Yeah, say goodbye to the elephants.

– Are they going to sleep?

– Sure, they have to rest too…

That was how three-year-old Yasiel’s dad tried to convince him it was time to go. The boy didn’t want to stop looking at his new friends.

The tenth Havana Art Biennial has brought many visitors, some arriving by plane, others on foot…

A herd of 12 inflatable metal elephants took over the streets of the Cuban capital.

Inflatable metal elephant herd by artist Jose Emilio Fuentes
Inflatable metal elephant herd by artist Jose Emilio Fuentes

The sculptural installation created by artist José Emilio Fuentes has caught the public’s attention. After opening in the Plaza Vieja of Old Havana, it migrated to the steps of the University of Havana.

Children, adults and youths of both sexes have been amazed by these animals.

Alicia, a pharmacy student, took a picture and smiled while saying, “We resemble elephants a little – we’re tough, we’re unified with our peers. Elephants are like that too, they take care of and help each other.”

Perhaps that’s why the artist chose this species to express the Cuban people’s capacity for sociability.  Perhaps, also for that reason, he decided that the installation should travel throughout the city, to become permeated with the illusions of its people, its children’s games, and the desire to meet other people.

Inspired by the fondness that these animals radiate, couples kiss each other in front of them, youths meet to tell stories close to their big ears -as if the pachyderms were listening to them- and children discover a maze of happiness around their enormous feet.

It’s true that we have many things in common with them; we both pay careful attention to the youngest, have mothers that guide the family…, but we especially share intelligence, group resistance and the ability to adapt to adverse conditions.

Nonetheless, Yasiel doesn’t know about all those things, he only wants to enjoy his friends a little more before they go to sleep.

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